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Carpe diem - Seizing the

moment in Social Media


How to maximise website traffic using social
media during major global events
Contents

Executive Summary Page 3

An update on Social Media and Online News in the UK Page 4

Social Media Case studies Page 7

Conclusion Page 13

2 - Social Media Update


Executive Summary

! Social media continues to be the fastest growing sector online in the UK, growing
by 17% year-on-year in 2010. For the first time ever in 2011, social media
became the single biggest activity online, overtaking the Entertainment
category.

! In January 2011, social networks accounted for 12.4% of all UK Internet visits.
Across the 9,000 social networks monitored by Experian Hitwise, there were over
2.4 billion visits from UK Internet users during the month, more than in any other
month
. on record.

! News and Media is the sixth biggest category online. In January 2011 news
websites accounted for 6.1% of all visits by UK Internet users.

! Social media is integral to online news because of the real-time updates. The
death of Michael Jackson, the Hudson River plane crash and the eruption of the
Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull were all being talked about and shared on Twitter
before many mainstream news sources caught up.

! During the Egypt crisis in February 2011, social networks accounted for 12.7% of all
clicks relating to Egypt news, demonstrating how valued the social networks were
as a channel for discovering news during an unfolding political event.

! Arab news network Al Jazeera and travel website Lonely Planet both established
themselves as trusted authorities during the Egypt crisis. Al Jazeera received its
highest ever volume of UK traffic, with weekly visits to the website increasing by
140% at the peak of demand for Egypt news. Meanwhile, the Lonely Planet website
was the fifth biggest recipient of traffic for all searches for Egypt holidays.

! During the major snow chaos of December 2010, visits to the British Airways
website increased by 24%, more than any other airline. British Airways focused on
updating its customers with the latest flight information through Twitter updates.
The benefit of adopting this strategy was that, according to BA’s own social
media monitoring tools, positive sentiment towards the airline trebled.

For the first time ever in 2011, social media


became the single biggest activity online,
overtaking the Entertainment category.

3 - Social Media Update


An update on Social Media and Online
News in the UK
A quick introduction to this paper
This paper was created to complement our earlier social media paper Getting to
Grips with Social Media. Whilst Getting to Grips was intended as a basic
introduction to the constantly evolving topic of social media, this paper takes the
next step with analysis of growing trends in the industry and examples of how
brands have benefited from an effective social media strategy. This paper looks to
illustrate how companies can use social media to seize on major world events as
an opportunity to become an online authority, and in doing so increase their brand
reputation.

By tapping into online communities, a brand like Lonely Planet managed to


increase its traffic for Egypt holidays by 79% during the political unrest in February
2011. How did a travel review site achieve huge traffic spikes for holidays during
Egypt’s most recent turbulent political history? Read on and find out how to
maximise your traffic through social media during major world events.

The recent growth of social media


Social media continues to be the fastest growing sector online in the UK and in
2010 alone visits to the Experian Hitwise Social Networks and Forums category
increased by 17%. For the first time ever in 2011, social media became the single
biggest activity online, overtaking the Entertainment category.

4 - Social Media Update


In January 2011 social networks accounted for 12.4% of all UK Internet visits.
Across the 9,000 social networks monitored by Experian Hitwise there were over 2.4
billion visits from UK Internet users during the month, more than in any other
month on record.

Social media goes from strength to strength. Not only are people visiting social
sites more regularly, the time they spend on these websites is increasing, with the
average session time spent on a social network in January 2011 being 22 minutes.
The range and diversity of social networks is also on the up. The data shows that
social media users are rarely tied exclusively to just one social network. Indeed, the
interaction between different social sites is immense, as users dart between
multiple networks in order to chat to their various groups of friends and
associates.

Social media is fast, interactive, exciting, and growing. In 2011 we expect social
media to grow by at least another 10%, with a lot of that growth driven by Facebook.
The UK’s most popular social network is gaining an even greater market share of
the social space, even as the market is diversifying, and there is a very real
possibility that at some point this year Facebook will account for over 60% of all
visits to social networks and forums (currently Facebook accounts for 56% of visits
to social sites).

How news is being spread through social media


The Internet is a gateway to information; a vast and unique portal through which
we can learn virtually anything we desire. As our appetite for information becomes
ever more voracious, greater demands are being placed on the Internet to provide
that information in real-time. Social media has become an indispensible tool to
share news and information online instantly.

News and Media is the sixth biggest category online in Britain. In January 2011
news websites accounted for 6.1% of all visits by UK Internet users. Social media is
carving its own niche within online news, as a way to spread news in real-time, but
also as a way for friends to recommend interesting news stories to each other.

With the growth of social media has also come the birth of “social journalism”.
Now anyone with a decent smartphone and access to Twitter can be a reporter.
Major news stories such as the death of Michael Jackson, the Hudson River plane
crash and the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull all broke through
social media before many traditional media channels were able to relay the
information.

In 2011 we expect social media to grow by at


least another 10%, with a lot of that growth
driven by Facebook.

5 - Social Media Update


 

http://twitpic.com/135xa - There’s a
plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry
going to pick up the people. Crazy.

What’s really interesting about the developments in online news is that the British
public now trust online news sources more than TV news bulletins and newspa-
pers. 58% of people asked in Ofcom’s 2010 survey of media literacy said that they
trusted online news, whereas only 54% said they trusted the news they saw on TV.
This makes social media one of the fastest, biggest and most trusted sources of
news delivery in the UK.

How can brands use social media to benefit from


this growing trend of sharing news?
We know that social media is growing rapidly, and that because of the real-time
updates provided by social media consumers are going to social forums more and
more to find out what is going on in the world. The key question for marketers is:
How can my brand benefit from this social trend?

The answer is that social media provides an avenue through which your brand can
communicate and participate in the conversations that are occurring online when
major news stories break. If you can be seen as an authority on a given subject
then your brand reputation will increase, and ultimately conversions and sales will
increase as a result of your participation in the social sphere.

The case studies provided in this paper show how brands have seized upon a
major news event and turned it to their advantage by becoming an authority
through social media.

6 - Social Media Update


Social Media Case Studies

Al Jazeera and Lonely Planet during the Eqyptian political crisis:


January - February 2011
In January 2011 there was a popular uprising in Egypt which led to demonstrations,
riots and labour strikes. Protesters took to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria in
an attempt to overthrow the autocracy of President Hosni Muburak. After weeks of
civil unrest, on 11 February 2011, President Mubarak resigned, and a new Egyptian
political era began.

  Egypt crisis: Hope that Hosni Mubarak may


Egypt crisis: More danger for protestors?
step down dashed

During the Egypt crisis, people were regularly going online to find out information
on the latest developments in the story. In the week ending 12 February, at the peak
of the crisis, more visits were going to social media sites for search terms relating
to the Egypt unrest than visits to the main News and Media – Print sites.

7 - Social Media Update


Overall, News and Media accounted for 13.3% of all visits after searches for Egypt
terms, but social networks accounted for 12.7% of visits, which just goes to show
how valued social networks were as a channel for discovering news during the
unfolding political events. Specifically, Facebook accounted for 6.4% of all of the
Egypt-related clicks, more than any other news source after the BBC. As the story
evolved, two websites made their mark in the downstream traffic for searches for
the latest news on Egypt updates.

Arab news network Al Jazeera emerged as a natural authority on the topic of


Egypt. During the crisis the English language version of the Al Jazeera website
saw its highest ever volume of UK traffic, with weekly visits to the website
increasing by 140% at the peak of demand for Egypt news.

What’s interesting here is that although the majority of traffic was coming to the Al
Jazeera website from search, 1 in 5 clicks to the website were coming from social
media. This was partly because Al Jazeera invested in creating live updates and
video content on Facebook, but also because people were sharing news links with
friends through Facebook and Twitter and this was directing further traffic to the
main Al Jazeera website.

8 - Social Media Update


Another website that benefited from making itself an authority on the subject of
Egypt was Lonely Planet. The company set up a travel forum asking members of its
online community that were in Egypt to post real-time updates on what was
happening where they were in the country. As a result, traffic to the Lonely Planet
website doubled during the protests, and 5% of all traffic to the site came from a
search term relating to the political unrest.

As the violent clashes and protests turned to progress, and the eventual
resignation of President Mubarak; searches spiked for both Egypt political terms
but also for holidays to Egypt.

As a result, traffic to the Lonely Planet


website doubled during the protests, and 5%
of all traffic to the site came from a search
term relating to the political unrest.

9 - Social Media Update


 

Having made itself an authority on the subject of Egypt, the bonus for Lonely
Planet was that online audiences now associated the website not just as a great
source of news and information but also as a place to book their holidays. In the
week of celebrations when searches for Egypt holidays spiked, Lonely Planet was
the fifth biggest recipient of traffic for all searches for Egypt holidays, showing a
remarkable 79% increase from the previous week.

British Airways during the winter snow: December 2010


December 2010 was a month when the weather had an instrumental effect on
online behaviour. The snow almost ruined Christmas as online retailers could not
guarantee delivery dates in time for Christmas Eve, and in the travel market chaos
on the roads, rails and air routes caused passengers delays and companies severe
PR headaches.

10 - Social Media Update


To put the snow in context of other major events which severely disrupted travel,
the chart below shows visits to the News and Media – Weather category and the
Travel –Transport category, which includes websites for airlines, roads and rail.

The area highlighted in blue shows the spikes in traffic to both categories during
the weeks of the Icelandic volcano eruption which grounded flights across most of
Europe for weeks due to the stream of volcanic ash. By comparison, the areas
highlighted in pink are the times when there was snow in the UK, most signifi-
cantly in December 2010 when traffic was more than twice that of the volcano
spikes.

One brand which managed much better than its peers during the December snow
was British Airways. The airline sees social media principally as a channel to talk
to its existing customers, rather than as a customer acquisition channel, and
through regular updates on Twitter British Airways was able to deliver excellent
customer service during challenging travel circumstances.

11 - Social Media Update


The normal policy for the airline would be to issue a mixture of tweets which
focused on customer service updates, deals, and marketing messages. However,
during the snow British Airways realised that its customers were only interested in
flight updates, and that marketing tweets would likely increase the customers’
frustration. The company sensibly opted to restrict its tweeting to information
which was going to be useful for its customers during the period of winter snow-
fall.

“British Airways’ Twitter account has been


helping people almost non-stop, DMing vital
flight information to beleaguered customers.”

The benefit of adopting this strategy was that positive sentiment tripled during the
snow chaos, according to BA’s own social media monitoring tools. Customers
were kept well informed of any developments, and overall the brand came out
positively from the potentially crippling situation. The Daily Telegraph praised
British Airways for its social media strategy: “British Airways’ Twitter account has
been helping people almost non-stop, DMing vital flight information to belea-
guered customers.”

Despite the frustrations and anger of customers during the snow, the overwhelm-
ing majority left with a positive impression of British Airways. As a knock-on effect
of this positive impression, BA saw a 12% year-on-year increase in visits to its
website in January 2011, in part due to the fact that consumers valued the effort
that the airline had gone to in order to take care of them during a time of crisis.

We’ve extra staff on the phones but till have high call volumes.
Numbers: 0800727800 UK, 18002479297 US & http://bit.ly/evo576

If you’re unable 2 rebook online (whatever reason), you’ll need to


call us. Pls only call if you’ve been directly affected by cancellations.

12 - Social Media Update


Conclusion

Seizing the moment in social media


December 2010 was a month when the weather had an instrumental effect on
online behaviour. The snow almost ruined Christmas as online retailers could not
guarantee delivery dates in time for Christmas Eve, and in the travel market chaos
on the roads, rails and air routes caused passengers delays and companies severe
PR headaches.

Often a crisis or disaster is avoided at all costs by a company’s PR department,


who do not want the brand associated with negative news stories. But as the case
studies of Al Jazeera, Lonely Planet and British Airways show, it is possible to
achieve a positive outcome from a negative story. By establishing trust and
authority on a given topic, these websites have received short term tangible
benefits, and the long term benefits are incalculable.

These achievements were made possible by social media. The political unrest in
Egypt demonstrates how much influence social networks are having on traffic to
news sites and retailers. Web users like to share news and events with friends and
increasingly social networks are gaining momentum to challenge search engines
as the main drivers of traffic to websites. By tapping into the potential of online
communities, brands can see great dividends to their site traffic.

Make the most of the news opportunities that are relevant to your brand, seize the
moment, and through good social media practice, your brand will benefit from
increased traffic and sales.

By tapping into the potential of online


communities, brands can see great dividends
to their site traffic.

13 - Social Media Update


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